Sippers and Sippettes - what’s happening? We wrote a poetic, lengthy intro for this post but found there was so much to pack into the rest of it that we’ve scrapped it and will cut to the chase. In response to popular demand, how (on earth!) do you make non-alcoholic booze. Here we go…
(Late editorial note – for brevity’s sake we’ll look just at beer and wine today. Something on no-alcohol spirit production shortly.)
There’s more than one way, as they say, to skin your favourite cat, and there’s more than one way to make non-alcoholic beer.
All involve pretty much the same initial processes of brewing that alcoholic beers go through - malting, mashing, boiling and adding hops and fermenting. For non-booze beers, though, there’s an additional, deliberate process of removing the alcohol, before bottling (or barreling/canning).
The simplest technique is in exposing the brew to high heat. With alcohol boiling at a lower temperature than water, the Ethyl Alcohol can effectively be boiled out. Brewers can adjust the temperature to regulate the amount of alcohol remaining.
The trouble with straight heating is that it in removing the alcohol you tend to remove some of the best flavour, found in chemicals such as the alpha acids in the hops. A more refined method is vacuum distilling which lowers the boiling point of the alcohol, meaning lower temperatures are needed, so protecting those delicious flavours.
Another route to no-alcohol beer is reverse osmosis. The brew is passed through a filter that separates a mix of alcohol and water from the sugars, compounds and chemicals that give the beer its flavour. The alcohol is then distilled out of the mix and the remaining water and acids added back to the flavourful syrup before re-carbonation.
There are other routes to non-alcoholic beer – dilution, for example, and simulated fermentation (skipping the fermentation process and adding ingredients to simulate the effect). Neither, in our experience, protect the taste like the more sophisticated methods above.
Options for non-alcoholic vintners are similar to those of their brewing comrades.
Again, before the alcohol is removed, the same processes apply as for traditional alcoholic wine – grow and harvest the grapes, crush them, remove, or don’t, according to desired end, the grape solids, ferment and mature the wine.
As per non-alcoholic beer, the alcohol can then be removed through vacuum distillation or reverse osmosis.
A third technique, sounding even more complex, is using so-called spinning cones. Wine is passed into a column of cones that spin at very high speed. The centrifugal forces applied transform the wine into a thin film which, when nitrogen gas is pumped through it, splits between the aroma giving chemicals and mix of primarily water and alcohol.
That latter mix can then be passed through the column again. At higher temperatures the alcohol is removed. The water and chemicals left can be re-added to the aroma-rich component safely set aside earlier to give non-alcoholic wine.
So, there you have it. A summary take on the processes for no-booze beer and wine. Important to note that techniques continue to evolve and refine. We look forward to speaking with some no-alcohol pioneers in coming months for a deeper dive. And will explore the techniques of sans-booze spirits very soon.